Case name: Hutson v. S.C. State Port Authority, No. 4737 (S.C. Ct. App. 09/08/10).
Ruling: The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a crane operator was not entitled to partial disability benefits because he was capable of running a restaurant.
What it means: A general disability award in South Carolina requires a showing of a loss of earning capacity. If a worker is capable of running a business, he is ineligible for disability benefits.
A crane operator was injured while he attempted to move a container from a ship. His employer admitted the injury and paid benefits. A doctor determined that he reached maximum medical improvement and assigned permanent work restrictions. The operator sought a continuation of benefits, claiming that he was permanently and totally disabled because of his back and leg injuries. He was denied total disability and sought partial disability benefits instead. The South Carolina Court of Appeals found that the operator was not entitled to partial disability benefits because he did not show evidence of wage loss.
The court stated that evidence supported a finding that the operator was capable of running a restaurant, which precluded an award for disability, although the operator argued that the evidence was "speculative." Two physicians stated that the operator was capable of working. The operator testified that he wanted to start a restaurant and that he was sure he could run a restaurant. He had studied culinary arts, his family had been in the restaurant business, he had been working on the restaurant project, and he could perform in a supervisory capacity as well as work the register. The court emphasized that the testimony about the operator's ability to work in a restaurant came from the operator himself. The court noted that the operator admitted that he could drive and take care of his household chores.
The operator also argued that he was entitled to additional compensation for his leg. His recovery had previously been limited to his back injury. The operator had suffered symptoms in his right leg that limited its functioning. The court sent the case back for further findings on whether he was entitled to compensation for the leg injury.
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December 20, 2010
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